[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]J[/dropcap]ens Massel a.k.a. Senking has been producing increasingly deep and abstract electronic music since 1996 and has been a Raster Noton label artist since 2000 when he featured in the seminal 20 to 2000 series of releases.
Although he came from a punk/indie background, he is best known for his intricately-produced and powerful electronic soundscapes. His latest release, Closing Ice is a powerful and muscular set of tracks, enhanced by a memorable set of film cut-up videos accompanying each track. Described as “a balancing act between danger, hope and destruction”, it’s distinctive, vivid and dynamic in a way that many other contemporary electronic releases fail to match.
Alexei Monroe spoke to him about his work.
It’s two years since your previous release – what has changed in the meantime? Have your techniques or equipment changed?
What changed is a life experience of two more years which also had an influence on my music output, although the creative process of making music itself didn’t change much during this time. I try to get into a state of mind which is already inspired some time before. In the first place it’s an emotional approach and not so much a conceptual one. My equipment changes every once in a while, but this doesn’t affect the way I’m working or the creative process in general.
With the use of the video trailer and the videos for each track it seems as if the album itself works as a film with its own narrative. How did this collaboration come about?
The video playlist is a fan-based work by a close friend of mine, Oliver Brand, (a.k.a. “brandstand 3000”) completed after I finished the tracks. I was thrilled by it when he sent it to me. Oliver and I go back around 25 years now and beside playing in bands together we watched tons of films in this time.
Some of the films in the playlist most definitely have an influence of my work, like a lot of others and a lot of other things in life itself. These particular films weren’t a major conscious influence on Closing Ice though. The film choice was made by Oliver alone and of course it’s just his visual interpretation of my music. Other people might see something totally different while they listening to my stuff, which I think is one of the great things about music. Personally though, I like his interpretation big time.
The use of visuals from The Abyss seems to symbolise the sense of vast depth that your music can create. Why is depth so important to you and how do you generate this?
This is difficult to answer. I’m not sure if it’s all about depth. For me, it’s the feeling that goes with it. Let’s stay with The Abyss for a moment. Depth in this particular case = deep sea, meaning being alone (I mean alone, not lonely ) and being very focused in a moment. The pureness of it and [the fact] that nothing else matters for a while combined with something new (and in the best case scenario, beautiful) is happening.
That’s something I like a lot – moments of perfection or at least [this is] what they are for me. But I think this feeling can be generated also in other ways than just by depth. How do I generate this? I don’t know.
I’m not even sure if I do, but for sure I’m trying to create this feeling if at all possible. This is really hard for me to explain, and I don’t know if it can make sense to someone who reads it. Maybe that’s the reason I try to put it into music.
‘Millers Meadow’ has moments that are relatively bright and optimistic compared to the previous tracks – are you flirting with taking your sound into less dark territory?
I don’t think about my music as dark. Or let’s say not only dark. I mean, for sure, it’s a part of it and I wouldn’t say that people should play it at their weddings, but equally they shouldn’t play it at their funerals. But now I noticed this is just stereotyping. Maybe they should, haha!
To answer your question: no, I think it’s less dark enough already [laughs]. But of course one never knows, since my music is mostly driven by my state of mind/emotions at a time and this might change, so I think my music might change with it.
Do you also plan to make game/film soundtracks?
If someone would ask be to make a “Senking” soundtrack for a movie/game/theatre play, I would be more than pleased to do so, although I think there are better choices than me.
Your Secret 13 mix was quite diverse and featured both Godflesh and Source Direct. Could you tell us more about your influences from these two poles and how they feed into your sound? (industrial metal and techstep)
In general, the intensity of music any kind is what catches my ear in the first place. This can be done by just one singer or by a whole orchestra. I never know when or what hits me and it’s difficult to explain. To give it a try for the two mentioned above: I like the massiveness about them and the way they are both dealing with sounds.
That doesn’t mean I’m trying to use the same sounds that they do, but for sure it has an influence on how I think about using sounds. The same goes for the dynamic.
Raster-Noton r-n 166
From Speak and Spell to Laibach.